Sunday, March 3, 2013

Graciana played at the National Tennis Center

Graciana is a very good tennis player. I mean, she's not a pro, but her team advanced to the US Tennis Association Manhattan playoffs, where she played in the 8.0 mixed doubles, on the first team. Which I can break down for you, if you want. So, just like with swimming and other sports, there's a governing body for tennis: the USTA. Graciana plays in the Manhattan adult league. Players are ranked according to ability and records. In these playoffs, which was mixed doubles (a team made up of a man and a woman) the ranking has to add up to 8.0. So one player could be ranked 3.0 and one 5.0, or they could both be 4.0 (as was the case with Graci and her partner) or any other combination (3.5 and 4.5) that makes sense and adds up to 8.0. Are you still with me? The thing I love about this kind of thing is that there's a completely transparent line from amateur to pro. You win this, you get that, you go there, you play against them, you get a new ranking, you get to go there, you eventually rise through the ranks and become that. The winner of the Manhattan playoffs advance to the Districts, and those winners advance to the Sectionals, and those winners advance to the Regionals, and those winners advance to the Finals. If you qualify with enough wins and a high enough ranking, you make the Nationals.

But none of that is what I got to do that was so great and joyous. I got to go to the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center and watch Graciana and her partner Matt play great tennis in the Manhattan playoffs. You know I love sports. And I really love tennis. I was on the tennis team in high school. I played First Doubles and Second and Third Singles. (I miss tennis. I really loved playing it. Sadly, my neck isn't strong enough to play it anymore.) I have been to the US Open, on the outdoor courts at the National Tennis Center, but I had never been to a playoff on the indoor courts. It was great. Low-key, with tables, chairs, and couches in the viewing balcony. We brought snacks and drinks, including these fabulous looking tennis ball cookies that Graci's sister ordered from the Duane Patisserie:

And we watched the match. Graci's team won the first set, 7-5. When she nails her serve, she really nails it!

Then they lost the second 6-3. Third set is a tie breaker—first team to 10 points, but you have to win by 2. It was neck and neck, all the way, and in the end Graci and Matt lost, 10-12. But she played great and knew it, as evidenced by the post-match glow:

For me, I think the joy (and inspiration) really comes from knowing that Graciana is pursuing this thing she loves so much, while also having a significant career in a completely different field. I was truly happy to share the night with her and the rest of her fans.

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